Electronic Voting: Approaches, Strategies, and Policy Issues—A Report from Switzerland

  • Urs GasserEmail author
  • Jan Gerlach
Part of the Information Technology and Law Series book series (ITLS, volume 20)


The long-term effects of the Internet on political systems and underlying information processes remain uncertain and are the subject of a new strand of multi-disciplinary—and increasingly quantitatively oriented—research. While the jury is still out, anecdotal and in some cases even empirical evidence from various countries suggest shifts in the ways in which political rights are exercised in the digitally networked environment. Much attention has been paid to the use of digital tools with regard to political campaigns—especially in the context of the recent US presidential campaigns, but also with the role of the Internet in South Korea or during the Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. Admittedly less spectacular and less transformative is the use of the Internet in the context of the voting process itself, which in democratic societies is considered to be a core element within the suite of political rights. Several countries in the Western hemisphere, including Canada, Estonia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland have acquired some initial experience with Internet voting as a subcategory of a broader set of distant-voting techniques. This article provides an overview of the Swiss experience with e-voting by looking at the respective projects in the cantons of Geneva, Zurich, Neuchatel, and Basel-Stadt, and surveys the key promises and challenges, both from a theoretical and practical perspective. Finally, the article discusses selected legal, technological, and social factors that need to be taken into account and managed when building an institutional framework for e-voting.


Voter Turnout Vote Process Electronic Vote Federal Council Swiss Citizen 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful to Herbert Burkert, John Palfrey, and James Thurman for conversations and comments.


  1. Alvarez MR et al (2009) Internet voting in comparative perspective: the case of Estonia. PS: Polit Sci Polit 42(3):497–505CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkman Center (2009) Next Generation Connectivity: a review of broadband Internet transitions and policy from around the world.
  3. Bonard C (2003) Chances et défis du vote par Internet. In: Journées 2002 d’Informatique Juridique Berne, pp 29–57Google Scholar
  4. Bosshard F et al (2008) E-Voting im Kanton Zürich: ‘Abstimmen per Internet—Risiko oder Komfort?’ [E-voting in the canton of Zurich: Voting via the Internet—risk or convenience?]. Presentation held in Zurich on 20 October 2008Google Scholar
  5. Braun N (2004) E-Voting: Switzerland’s projects and their legal framework–in a European context. In: Prosser A, Krimmer R (eds) Electronic Voting in Europe: Technology, Law, Politics and Society. Gesellschaft für Informatik, Bonn, pp 43–52Google Scholar
  6. Braun N (2006) Stimmgeheimnis [Secrecy of vote]. Stämpfli, BerneGoogle Scholar
  7. Braun N, Brändli D (2006) Swiss e-voting pilot projects: evaluation, situation analysis and how to proceed. In: Krimmer R (ed) Electronic Voting 2006. Gesellschaft für Informatik, Bonn, pp 27–36Google Scholar
  8. Buchstein H (2000) Öffentliche und geheime Stimmabgabe [Public and secret voting]. Nomos, Baden-BadenGoogle Scholar
  9. Burkert H (2009) Das ‘Wahlcomputer’-Urteil und E-Voting. Digma 9:112–117Google Scholar
  10. Cervelló G (2009) The e-participation project of Neuchâtel. European Journal of ePractice 7:5.
  11. Chevallier M et al (2006) Success factors of Geneva’s e-voting system. Electron J e-Gov 4(2):55–62Google Scholar
  12. Eicholzer H (2006) eVoting—Erfahrungen der Gemeinde Bertschikon—Ein Projektbericht [e-voting—experiences of the municipality of Bertschikon].
  13. Engi L, Hungerbühler F (2006) E-Voting–Stand und Entwicklung in der Schweiz [E-voting–status quo and developments in Switzerland]. Medialex 1:17–27Google Scholar
  14. Federal Chancellery (a) Synoptische Darstellung der Schweizer Vote électronique Versuche in den Jahren 2003 bis 2007 [Overview of e-voting pilot-projects from 2003 to 2007].
  15. Federal Council (2002) Bericht über den Vote Électronique. Chancen, Risiken und Machbarkeit elektronischer Ausübung politischer Rechte vom 9. Januar 2002 [Report on e-voting. Opportunities, risks and feasibility of the exercice of political rights by electronic means]. Federal Gazette 645Google Scholar
  16. Federal Council (2006a) Bericht über die Pilotprojekte zum Vote électronique vom 31. Mai 2006 [Report on the e-voting pilot-projects]. Federal Gazette 5459Google Scholar
  17. Federal Council (2006b) Botschaft über die Einführung der allgemeinen Volksinitiative und über weitere Änderungen der Bundesgesetzgebung über die politischen Rechte vom 31. Mai 2006 [Dispatch on the introduction of a general people’s initiative and on further amendments of Federal legislation on political rights]. Federal Gazette 5261Google Scholar
  18. Federal Council (2009a) Arrêté du Conseil federal autorisant un essai de vote électronique dans le canton de Neuchâtel lors de la votation populaire fédérale du 17 mai 2009 [Decision of the Federal Council on the approval of an e-voting test in the canton of Neuchatel on the occasion of the Federal ballot of 17 May 2009], Federal Gazette 2009 1161 and Arrêté du Conseil federal autorisant un essai de vote électronique dans le canton de Neuchâtel lors de la votation populaire fédérale du 27 septembre 2009 [Decision of the Federal Council on the approval of an e-voting test in the canton of Neuchatel on the occasion of the Federal ballot of 27 September 2009], Federal Gazette 2009 4617Google Scholar
  19. Federal Council (2009b) Bundesratsbeschluss über die Zulassung eines Versuchs zu Vote électronique im Kanton Neuenburg im Rahmen der eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 29. November 2009 [Decision of the Federal Council on the approval of an e-voting test in the canton of Neuchatel on the occasion of the Federal ballot of 29 November 2009]. Federal Gazette 2009 7013Google Scholar
  20. Franklin MN (2004) Voter turnout and the dynamics of electoral competition in established democracies since 1945. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Funk P (2005) Theory and evidence on the role of social norms in voting., p 6
  22. Geser H (2002) E-voting Projects in Switzerland. In: Sociology in Switzerland: towards cybersociety and vireal social relations.
  23. Gfs.bern (2005) Das Potenzial der elektronischen Stimmabgabe [The potential of electronic voting]. Berne 2005.
  24. Government Council, Canton of Zurich (2007) E-Voting wird im Jahr 2008 weitergeführt—weitere Gemeinden und Stadtkreise werden zugelassen [E-voting will be continued in 2008—more municipalities and city districts will be admitted]. Press Release, 4 October 2007.
  25. Helg F (2007) Die schweizerischen Landsgemeinden [The public open-air essamblies of Switzerland]. Schulthess, ZürichGoogle Scholar
  26. Imhof I (2006) Schritt für Schritt zum ‘Vote électronique’ [Step by step towards e-voting]. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 13 September.
  27. Knöri D (2006) E-Voting und dessen Herausforderung [E-voting and its challenges]. Presentation held at Telematiktage Bern. On file with authorsGoogle Scholar
  28. Knöri D, Prader E (2006) E-Voting des Kantons Zürich [The e-voting system of the canton of Zurich]. 10 February. On file with authorsGoogle Scholar
  29. Linder W (2003) E-Voting–Eine Belebung der direkten Demokratie? LeGes 1:103–124Google Scholar
  30. Morales-Rocha V et al (2008) Secure remote voter registration. In: Krimmer R, Grimm R (eds) Electronic Voting 2008. Gesellschaft für Informatik, Bonn, pp 95–108Google Scholar
  31. Neue Züricher Zeitung (2009) Stimmabgabe über ‘Firefox’-Browser nicht möglich [Voting with ‘Firefox’ browser not possible]. 23 November.
  32. Oppliger R (2008) Sicherheit beim E-Voting. E-Voting auf unsicheren Client-Plattformen. Digma 8:82–85Google Scholar
  33. Palfrey J, Gasser U (2008) Born digital. Basic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Prader E (2006) Das e-Voting System im Einsatz [The e-voting system in use]. Presentation held at Telematiktage Bern 2006, slides 24–25. On file with authorsGoogle Scholar
  35. Rota D (2008) E-government and Electronic Voting. Presentation held at the Council of Europe’s Future of Democracy Forum, 15–17 October 2008, Madrid, p 17.
  36. Trechsel A (2007) E-voting and electoral participation. In: de Vreese C (ed) Dynamics of Referendum Campaigns–An International Perspective. Palgrave, London, pp 159–183Google Scholar

Copyright information

© T.M.C. ASSER PRESS, The Hague, The Netherlands, and the authors 2011 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Berkman Center for Internet and SocietyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Research Center for Information LawThe University of St. GallenSt. GallenSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations